In the Garden

Whoa. Summer came to Oklahoma with a bang. After all those extra months of freezing weather and our recent weeks of rain, it is finally 90+ degrees and dry. Is there no such thing as a happy medium? Or do those days happen fleetingly? I’m guessing the latter.

Those days have come where I now have to check my flowers and vegetables daily. A simply soaking every evening only seems to make my plants thirstier. When I walked past my potted petunias last night I was shocked by the condition of the soil. It was cracking and parched and it made me feel so silly for proclaiming only last week how hard it was to kill petunias! PUBLIC APOLOGY, PETUNIAS – I take it all back.

I never had an interest in gardening for most of my life, although I have had a lifelong interest in eating food grown in other people’s gardens. When I lost my job nearly two years ago and Florida’s economy failed to provide me with another, I decided to turn my spare time into a useful tool. The following spring and summer, I grew tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, carrots, ground cherries, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, herbs, and edible flowers.

Jack, my parents’ piebald dachshund, accompanied me every morning to the garden space. The two of us made our rounds collecting ground cherries that had fallen or thinning out the carrots and nursing the cucumbers back to health. Actually, I did the work while Jack chased squirrels and investigated the deep roots of a philodendron.

Jack, my garden buddy

Jack, looking especially short next to the lettuce patch

Matt and I decided this year’s garden would be a small and manageable one. Everything we hope will be edible is growing in container pots and recycled whiskey barrels. There are three varieties of potted tomatoes, cucumbers trailing on our iron porch rails, and okra being held upright with a metal trellis. All those mornings I tossed the water out of those saturated pots are paying off and things are finally starting to grow.

sunburst cherry tomatoes

sunburst cherry tomatoes

okra is happening!

okra is happening!

It seems I have a new garden buddy these days to go along with my new garden. As I made my rounds this morning redirecting the cucumber vines and marveling at the height of my still-growing sunflowers, Teddy rarely left my side. There is a story behind this dog and I wish I knew what it was, but for now I’m happy to imagine he was treated well by someone who appreciated his constant presence and liked to take him for long walks outside.

my handsome boy

my handsome boy

Greenleaf

Home away from home #renfaire #greenleaf

This past weekend was a celebratory one for me for three reasons:

1. It was Mother’s Day weekend.
2. I submitted my final research papers early and finished my semester ahead of schedule.
3. Spring is finally here!

The first time I ever traveled on I-40 through eastern Oklahoma was in 2011 when Matt, Elle, and I drove from Florida to Oklahoma City for Thanksgiving. Forgive me when I say Oklahoma is ugly in the winter, but, to be fair, I think almost anywhere is ugly in the winter. Traveling on I-40 again last Friday with the greenery and the wildflowers and the rolling hills made me very happy. It’s a good way to start a vacation and Oklahoma redeemed herself.

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We met with a group of friends at Greenleaf State Park outside of Muskogee (birthplace of my brainiac girl crush, Sarah Vowell) and settled in for a weekend of campfire s’mores, a Renaissance Faire, and the enjoyment of one another’s company. We had cabins this time and an abundance of sunshine and warm weather – my preferred method of camping, even though my husband rolls his eyes at this.

Coming from the land of alligators and swamp rats and where water moccasins fall out of trees, I was horrified, yet totally fascinated, by my first sighting of a tarantula in the wild. It is also possible that I have acclimated to this season called winter which led to me feeling very sick and overheated on Saturday…in 75 degree weather while wearing a flowing skirt and a crop top.

Man, this summer’s heat index in Florida is gonna kill me.

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Fledgling Watch 2013

Last summer, I found a bird egg on my porch and researched a little bit about the House Sparrow, learning a lot about their invasive ways. Then yesterday I found a terrified little baby bird on my front porch. He was only mere seconds away from becoming a snack for Teddy, who has been vigilantly guarding the family from squirrels and is overeager to prove his Pointer hunting skills, I think. I can’t tell for certain if this little guy is a Starling or a House Sparrow because all the online gallery photographs seem to look the same. What I do know, though, is that both bird species are invasive and absolute jerks in their adult forms.

But this one is far from an adult, so I think he’s kind of cute:

baby starling or Mr. Grumpyfeathers

baby starling

My friend Katy nicknamed him Mr. Grumpyfeathers. His feathery hair tufts are a little Einstein-ish and he seems to be giving me a dirty look for interrupting whatever it was he was doing before almost being gobbled up by a 70-pound puppycat (Katy is also the one who dubbed Teddy a puppycat – she’s good with words). Knowing he wouldn’t be safe in my yard or the yard next door, which is overrun by a family of feral cats, I took him to the other neighbor’s yard, where there are absolutely no pets, and placed him on the ground while listening to his mother curse at me violently in Sparrowese, or whatever.

Later that evening, I watched the mama bird feed the other baby bird and realized how Mr. Grumpyfeathers most likely left the nest. I don’t think it was willingly. Mama hangs outside the nest and makes the baby lean precariously over the ledge to get food from her mouth. I’m expecting that one to tumble off my roof any minute now…

Winter Returned for a Day

It all started Saturday night when my friend texted me and asked if she could spend Tuesday here at my house. It’s always good to make a plan in case anyone needs to take cover in my basement during the storms. Because of that text, I spent the next couple days getting increasingly more nervous about the impending storm system that would soon be over Oklahoma and the rest of the southern plains. This is my first spring in Tornado Alley and I am already learning that cap inversion and supercell development will eventually become a part of my regular weather vocabulary.

Our 80 degree weather during the day Tuesday suddenly dropped about 30-40 degrees over the course of a few hours into the evening. The nasty weather didn’t really come through the Oklahoma City metro until after midnight on Wednesday. A blinding lightning storm passed overhead early in the morning hours while Matt and I curled up in bed trying to get back to sleep. When daylight broke, we were greeted with this:

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Parts of our tree were in my driveway when I returned home from a mid-morning appointment and there was evidence all over the northwest corner of the city that whole trees were coming down. The warmed waters of Lake Hefner were steaming and it created a beautiful yet strange kind of fog that sat just above the surface.

There is no way I can complain about the absence of tornadoes during this particular storm system, though, and I was quite surprised that I didn’t develop one of my low-pressure system headaches (does anyone else in Hurricane Alley know what I’m talking about?). I have been through an especially treacherous ice storm only once before when I was living on the east coast in Maryland. Those Mid-Atlantic States are quite infamous for freak weather, too, but this ice storm seemed pretty simple because the temperature hadn’t climbed above freezing for most of the day.

It turns out I was wrong. And it also turns out that my mother doesn’t scold me anymore for using curse words in her presence (or, as the case was, while she is on the phone with me). Driving to Elle’s school in the afternoon was, quite frankly, terrifying. Ice was beginning to melt and falling from the high power lines. These were pretty long and wide chunks of ice, crashing into my windshield and the roof of my van. I was convinced they were trying to impale me. A few times I screamed, “Oh, shit!” into my mother’s ear and she said nothing in return. It was one of those moments in which I felt like a real grown-up, especially so after I realized I could just change lanes.

This morning there was frost on my windshield but the ice has finally melted away. The world is green again, the birds are singing once more, and our dogs can now roam the yard safely without fear of getting clocked in the head by tree branches and falling ice. 81 degrees on Sunday? Yes, please.

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Florida Marches

Spring is slowly, slowly pushing its way through. Strangely, I’m a little hesitant to rush it it only because I know severe storms and tornadoes become the norm this time of year. It snowed in parts of Oklahoma a few days ago and today we were enjoying seventy-degree weather. I’ll probably never stop complaining of the wind, though, which seems to accompany these bursts of warmer weather making it a little more difficult to enjoy the outside world. We’ve been enjoying the hot tub much more lately since night time temps tend to hover around 40 or 50, on a good evening.

I am missing Florida, too. The greenery, the lushness of it all, even the goddamn kudzu. I can’t really say that I wish I was there. According to Sam Champion, my favorite national weatherman, Oklahoma City has been warmer than Jacksonville. One day, we were even warmer than some cities in South Florida. Winter – it’s time for you to go home now.

These photographs are from some of my previous years’ March adventures. Florida usually provides a nice warm spring/summer atmosphere this time of year. Beachworthy, even! Since nobody anywhere in the country seems to be basking in any of that kind of weather, feel free to enjoy these photographs of the botanical gardens in Gainesville and Jacksonville. While there are no photographs of me, I can assure you I was wearing shorts and flip flops on both occasions. My toes, already painted in a deep green polish, are screaming to be released from the confines of socks and shoes. Seriously, Winter – go home already.

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bamboo

daffodils

groud cover

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garden window

Preparing for Spring

Spring is coming! At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. From the looks of things, central Oklahoma has a long way to go before the trees start bursting with green and the flowers bloom vibrant again. I doubt I’ll even be convinced of a warming until I hear my first buzzing bee. Only then will I believe it’s actually happening.

My spring fever is spiking right about now for two reasons:

1)      Daylight Saving Time is right around the corner!

2)      This is the season when the azaleas start to show off in North Florida.

I started thinking about this a few days ago when I saw my hometown of Jacksonville was getting drenched with much needed downpours while Oklahoma was under the threat of a crippling blizzard. Our blizzard never even hit Oklahoma City (phew!) but I hope all that rain in Florida helped push off the drought.

The following photos were taken last year in March at my friend’s house outside of Gainesville, Florida, a few weeks away from where we are right now and after a very mild winter. Their colors only last for a short while, but they are a welcome sight to anyone who has become bored of the standard green of loblolly pines and palms.

After reading that last sentence back to myself, it sounds ridiculous. Who would ever become bored of evergreens and palm trees? It sure beats the dead shit scenery I’ve been looking at here for the past three months – leafless trees, brown leaves covering the ground, snow, melting snow, mud, muddy dog paws in my house. So, in short, azaleas just make what is already pretty prettier.

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It’s your turn now, Oklahoma. I see you have a spectacular wildflower show in the springtime and I’m quite anxious to experience it for myself!

Also, I’m eager to get my hands dirty and dig a native flower garden, to grow my giant sunflowers that will greet me every morning from outside my bedroom window, to find fruits and vegetables at the farmers market (instead of buying all that frozen bagged stuff at the grocery store, which feels like a form of blasphemy in this local food-networked city).

We have an emergency weather radio, a basement, and a tornado siren a few blocks down the road. I’M READY.

Did Old Man Winter Get Lost?

In the middle of December, I posted about my beautiful red maple tree that was still carrying its summer leaves and colors.  Then just ten days ago, I posted about how my red maple tree was looking a little perplexed. It started dropping its leaves and all as though the fall season had blasted through North Florida and the red maple had barely enough time to catch up before winter would be on our doorstep.

Now I am starting to believe winter forgot all about us.

Believe me, I’m not complaining for my sake because I am self-admittedly one of the whiniest people in the world when faced with cold weather. I do respect the cyclical seasons and the purpose each one holds for death and renewal and all of the things that nature needs, so I’m beginning to get a little worried.  What happens when one season just doesn’t happen?

I looked out my kitchen window this morning and noticed red blooms on the red maple.  Red blooms! As in the tree already thinks it’s time to blossom and prepare for spring, even as the golden leaves from the fall change are still hanging from its branches. This variety of tree is one of the first trees of them all to flower and usually occurs between March and May. It’s only January and it’s already blooming! Grrr…but it’s oh so pretty!

I wonder what this says about the other trees, or even the plants and animals. Are they just as confused? I know I am! I tore up my garden today and started the first of many weed-pulling marathons, following the Zone 9 guide for spring planting. As I’m a novice at this gardening thing (last year’s drought did nothing to boost my confidence in greenthumbing and everything promptly died), I’m afraid I might have to keep one step ahead of the weather since it doesn’t even know what it’s supposed to be doing anymore.

March

 

  Took these pictures in my own backyard.  Some friends’ and family members’ backyards still look like this (bleh!):

I am expecting some changes in my life, none of which will relocate me to such a wintry place. Cheers!  Here’s to banging doors down (since the polite knocking hasn’t been working as of late).  I’m hoisting my own damn battering ram and expecting people to get out of the way…lest ye be knocked out, too.  The clock is running out and the river is running dry.  It’s time to get things done. And you…you know who you are.  You’re #1 on my figurative hit list.

Empowerment is an undeniably fantastic state of mind.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”  ~Robin Williams